The enduring Esther Vibal: the country’s publishing queen

ESTHER Asuncion Vibal is a writer, publisher, businesswoman, socio-civic worker, and philanthropist. Founder and chairperson of the Vibal Group of Companies, she is known internationally as the first Asian and Filipino president of International Inner Wheel, a socio-civic organization formed by wives and daughters of Rotary Club International members.

She is also the first ever Go Negosyo-Philippine Center “Inspiring Women of the Year” awardee in recognition of her excellence in her field, and for embodying admirable traits, such as concern for women’s causes, care for the community, and integrity. The Vibal name is a leader in the book publishing industry in the country.

Vibal Publishing House Inc. began with very little capital but with great determination, foresight and hard work. Esther was a writer for the women’s section at the newly-organized “Manila Times”, where her husband, the late Hilarion P. Vibal, was business editor. In 1953, Hilarion decided to set up his own company, which published specialized trade journals. But like many other entrepreneurs, Mrs. Vibal and the company faced countless challenges and trials which tested their entrepreneurial characteristics. One of the first few challenges they faced was the need for financing, which several start-up companies usually experience.

Managerial competence and uncompromising quality

When Hilarion passed away, Esther headed the company with an aggressive and results-oriented management style. She hired highly trained education specialists and writers, propelling Vibal Publishing House, Inc., into a leading developer and publisher of textbooks and instructional materials for elementary and high school students.

The company soon grew into a multi-million peso corporation with sales offices in various regions of the country. Today, with some 400 employees and state-of-the-art printing facilities, Vibal Publishing continues to serve the needs of thousands of private schools.

According to an Inquirer interview a couple of years ago, in the unforgiving world of business, where enterprises consider themselves lucky to last beyond two years, Vibal Publishing Inc. was able to outlast the competition and become one of the country’s largest publishers of textbooks and educational materials by never compromising on quality. According to Esther, quality is the single biggest determinant of success in the publishing sector, since the company’s products are used in the shaping of students’ minds. Her keen adherence to quality and passion for excellence, have led the Vibal Group to become an institution in the education and publishing fields.

The importance of innovation

She says that she and her husband entered the publishing sector, specializing in textbooks, as they believed that the demand for educational materials would never wane.

“You have to be daring in business and innovative. An entrepreneur cannot afford to stay where he or she is. Failure to adopt means failure in the business, especially in the publishing field, where there is always something new to be learned”, explains Vibal.

Recently, Vibal Foundation, in partnership with De La Salle University, published the first set of e-books in the Philippines. Launched in September 2006, Filipiniana.net is the largest, most advanced digital library and online research portal, offering free, 24/7 access to rare, unpublished and out-of-print books, documents, and other materials on the Philippines categorized under history, culture, geography, government, society, economy, religion, and science.

Shift to digital and online

The emergence of digital technology was a change welcomed by the Vibal Group. Instead of drifting along the current, they embraced the challenge of going against it by becoming pioneers in introducing the first e-reader developed by Filipino software engineers to launching an e-commerce bookstore called Vibe Bookstore. Today, the Vibal Group has transitioned from a strictly publishing business into a complete end-to-end technology solutions provider for education, enterprise, and government.

Social responsibility

Cognizant of the complex needs of the Filipino in the areas of education as well as historical and cultural preservation, the company set forth to establish Vibal Foundation to undertake various programs and projects using new technologies to reach a bigger and more diverse audience.

Through the years, Esther has remained at the forefront of women’s issues through her involvement in the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship and the Philippine Commission on Women. She was also the founder of the Philippine Women’s Studies Project and member of the board of trustees of UP Center for Women’s Studies Foundation, Inc.

Enterprise Asia – the world-class award-giving body honoring business leaders who have shown outstanding performance in developing successful businesses within the region – recognized Esther Vibal as one of the country’s Outstanding Entrepreneurs at the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (APEA).

Her being an enduring model of tenacity, perseverance, and innovation in the educational print and publishing industry deemed her worthy of this global award.

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